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291 children rescued in Mumbai

Sunday 26 June 2005

Staff Reporter

Police raid jewellery-making units "If we had not reached them, the children would have choked to death"

MUMBAI: In the third rescue operation conducted along with the Labour Department, the Women and Child Welfare Department and NGOs this month, the Mumbai Police on Saturday rescued 291 children. Most of these children work in different jewellery-making units in Mumbai.

The rescue operation started at 10 a.m. and several labour inspectors, social workers and the police went to Vitthalwadi, Pokalwadi, Teligalli and Phul Bazaar areas.

"Most of the children are from West Bengal and are working in jewellery-making units. They will be handed over to the Child Welfare Committee and then after investigation they will be sent back to their homes," DCP Pratap Dighavkar said. The police have registered cases against the employers and the supervisors under Section 374 of the IPC and various sections of the Child Labour Act and Juvenile Justice Act. No arrests have been made so far.

At the L.T. Marg police station, the rescued children sat in different rooms. Personnel of the Labour Department, the police and the NGOs were trying to collect information from the children who refused to talk. At the same time, the alleged employers or members of the Bengali Association were distributing food to the children. The police asked them not to interact with the children. Activists of the "Say No to Child Labour Task Force" asked them not to bring food or tea inside the premises and told them that the Task Force would take care of it.

Anxious children waited for information on the future course of action. Manoj, 13,who works as delivery boy for a tiffin provider, said: "I take 12 dabbas every morning and bring them back in the evening. I get Rs. 1,000 every month." Asked if he had come alone or along with others, he said: "I do not have any friends in this group."

According to Kishor of the task force, many children insisted that they were here only for a few days and that they go to school.

"But their papers have to be carefully examined. Children above 16 years of age will be released," he said. Some children were also found locked in a suffocating atmosphere during the rescue operation.

"If we had not reached them, the children would have choked to death," Santosh, another task force member, said.

Children rescued during the earlier raids in Madanpura and Bhuleshwar areas are being sent in batches to their hometowns, in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal.

Except the 20 in the Madanpura raid nobody has been arrested.

See online : The Hindu

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